My (admittedly patchy) nominations for the Hugo Awards 2018

hugo_sm(UPDATED to add Charles Payseur to Best Fan Writer)

Nominations for the Hugo Awards close on Friday, March 16 – the nomination form is here – and because I have bought a membership to the Dublin Worldcon in 2019, I am eligible to nominate, if not vote, this year.

It was my first time nominating for the longlist, as I have usually been happy to wait for the shortlist, or even the winners, to emerge and see what I had read that matched up. But what the process has revealed that I am very poorly read in SFF circles this year. It’s something I have to work on.

In any case, my nominations are as follows:

 

Best novel:

No nomination. The only qualifying novel I read this year, I abandoned after about eighty pages. Nice idea, awful prose.
Best novella:
A big gap in my reading – I don’t seem to have read a single novella in 2017. I know they are enjoying something of a resurgence, but I can’t quite seem to make the transition up from the ‘delicious snack’ level of short stories or down from the 12-course banquet of the novel.
Best Novelette:
The Secret Life of Bots – Suzanne Palmer –  Clarkesworld
A Series of Steaks – Vina Jie-Min Prasad – Clarkesworld
Neptune’s Trident – Nina Allen – Clarkesworld
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know any of these were novelettes, or in fact what a novelette was. But I really liked all three of these long short stories. Nina Allen’s is probably my favourite, in an “I wished I had written that” sort of way.
Best Short Story:
Fandom for Robots – Vina Jie-Min Prasad – Uncanny
The Worldless – Indrapramit Das – Lightspeed
The Crisis – M John Harrison – CommaPress
Best Series:
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman – La Belle Sauvage
I know you are not supposed to nominate things you haven’t read, but even if this fourth book is Pullman pasting random lines from Jeremy Clarkson columns, the first three would still be enough to carry this series over the line. Anyway, you’re not my mother – I can vote for what I want.
Best Related Work:
Such a brilliant essay. I started it thinking it would be Round 724 in Kirk vs Picard, but it does so much to redeem Kirk’s reputation. It’s not just about Star Trek, it’s about men on screen, brave and uncynical characterisation and the nature of how we remember and misremember and how bloody easy humans are to reprogram through pop culture. Go read it.
Best Graphic Story:
I haven’t opened one this year.
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form):
Thor Ragnarok – Taika Waititi – Marvel Studios
Logan – James Mangold – 20th Century Fox
I’m aware they are fairly blokey and white, but I haven’t seen anything else. Not Annihilation, nor Black Panther, nor the Shape of Water. Not even The Last Jedi. That’s what children do to cinema trips.
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form):
Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad (Star Trek:Discovery) – Aron Eli Coleite, Jesse Alexander – CBS
Home (The Expanse) – Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby – SyFy (Alcon Entertainment)
The Trolley Problem (The Good Place) – Josh Siegel, Dylan Morgan – Fremulon
USS Callister (Black Mirror) – Charlie Brooker/William Bridges – Netflix
Guillotines Decide – (Orphan Black) Aisha Porter-Christie,  Graeme Manson – BBC America
I’ve done a lot better with small-screen SF this year than with books or movies.
It seemed like there was a lot of Trek around this year, some of it authorised, some of it a very convincing knock-off. Star Trek Disco I really enjoyed after a shaky start. Harry Mudd was probably the mid-season breather that allowed it to bed in in my mind. 
I probably would have thrown The Orville a vote if USS Callister hadn’t been so good – I think for all the show’s mis-steps, Seth MacFarlane is doing something from a place of reverence. Compare that with the reboot movies (again, go read Erin Horáková’s essay
The Expanse was all new to me – I’ve never read the books – but it was a real treat.
The Good Place is the second-funniest thing on TV this year (after The Young Offenders).
Orphan Black finally came to an end and managed to land the series after some turbulent middle seasons. Siobhan’s sacrifice left some dust in my eye – don’t mess with mothers, adoptive or otherwise.
Best Professional Editor (Long Form):
I haven’t read an SFF novel in 2017, so no nominations.
Best Professional Editor (Short Form):
Rich Horton
Jonathan Strahan
Gardner Dozois
Neil Clarke
Best Professional Artist:
Chris McGrath – Cover for Breach of Containment by Elizabeth Bonesteel (Harper Voyager, October)
Richard Anderson – Cover for The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear (Tor, October)
Jaime Jones – Cover for All Systems Red by Martha Wells (Tor.com, May)
Galen Dara – https://uncannymagazine.com/issues/uncanny-magazine-issue-sixteen/

Best Semiprozine:
Escape Pod – Mur Lafferty & Divya Breed
Strange Horizons – Jane Crowley, Kate Dollarhyde
Uncanny Magazine – Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota
Best Fanzine:
File 770 – Mike Glyer
Best Fancast:
Galactic Suburbia – Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts
I should be writing – Mur Lafferty
Sword and Laser – Veronica Belmont, Tom Merritt
Get to Work Hurley! – Kameron Hurley
Coode Street Podcast – Jonathan Strahan, Gary K Wolfe
Best Fan Writer:
Charles Payseur – Quick Sip Reviews.
Best Fan Artist:
No nomination.
Best Young Adult Book (not a Hugo):
No nomination.
John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo):
Vina Jie-Min Prasad

Considering she has two excellent stories in two different categories above, it would have been rude not to nominate Vina. My money is on her to win at least one Hugo this year.

I will never again underestimate the amount of work that the Hugo voters put in – there is a lot of cool stuff out there and I am very conscious that I barely scratched the surface in 2017. But there is always next year.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that my story, The Last Boat-Builder in Ballyvoloon, is eligible for nomination for a Short Story Hugo and that I am in my first year of eligibility for the Campbell Award. I can’t vote for myself.
Sin é (that’s it).

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So apparently I am eligible to be nominated for a flipping Campbell Award (and my story for a Hugo Award)

(UPDATED UPDATED UPDATE) OK, so Rich Horton didn’t see his way to including my short story, The Last Boat-Builder in Ballyvoloon, in his Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy. It would have been nice to go for the trifecta – Gardner Dozois, Neil Clarke and Horton (or the quadfecta of Dozois, Clarke, Horton and Coode Street’s Jonathan Strahan), but, you know, not everybody likes everything and some stuff always gets lost in the edit. I get that, and I am sanguine about the frankly massively unexpected success my one story of 2017 has had. However, Horton has seen fit to recommend me for this year’s Campbell Award. Just to sum up, I had one story published last year, and it got reprinted twice (Dozois and Clarke), recommended in the Locus Reading List and now Rich Horton has recommended me as worthy of consideration for the Campbell. I couldn’t be happier …

(UPDATED UPDATE: The Last Boat-Builder in Ballyvoloon has been chosen for the Locus Recommended Reading List.)

(UPDATE: The Last Boat-Builder in Ballyvoloon has also been included in Night Shade Books’ Best Science Fiction of The Year Vol 3, edited by Neil Clarke — I couldn’t be happier…)

bsfoty3

In August of last year, I received my first acceptance for a short story, The Last Boat-Builder in Ballyvoloon, and it appeared in the October 2017 issue of Clarkesworld. I could not have been happier. Or so I thought.

My family read it and liked it, random people read it online and tweeted me how much they liked it. People even reviewed it. I thought I was chuffed with the electronic version of it (and the podcast) until my buddy Jeff sent me a print copy from Toronto as a gift. I could hold in my hand a printed science fiction magazine that contained something I had spent a long time wringing from my already word-addled brain. I could not have been happier. Or so I thought.

cobh library view

In November, the story was picked to be re-printed in the 35th edition of Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best Science Fiction, a book whose previous editions I checked out of Cobh library and read looking out over the harbour that formed the basis for the one in the story (that’s the view from the library window above – taken from Cork County Library’s twitter page). I could not have been happier. Or so I thought.

In January, after a nudge from Neil Clarke, the editor of Clarkesworld, I checked with the Writertopia website to see if my story could be added to their eligibility list for the John W. Campbell award. And apparently it could. I could not have been happier. Or so I thought.

What I hadn’t appreciated was this:

My story is eligible to be nominated for a Hugo Award. Now, I am familiar with the cliche of it being an honour to just be nominated, and assumed it was just that – something people trot out. But if this is how great it feels to even be eligible to be nominated for something, I have to imagine that it is true.

My story is eligible to be nominated for a Hugo Award. I couldn’t be happier…

My story, The Last Boat-Builder in Ballyvoloon, is featured in the latest issue of Clarkesworld

clarkesworld October 2017[UPDATE: the podcast version of the story is now live. Listen to it here.]

Those wonderful people at Clarkesworld have published my short story – The Last Boat-Builder in Ballyvoloon.

Needless to say, I am over the moon. It is the first thing I have written that came close to satisfying my own internal critic and I worked hard on it. How hard? Well, having checked the revision history on the story, I started it on September 14, 2014 – so more than three years between writing the opening par and it being published. This scheme is not going to make me rich quick (or at all).

However, the excitement at being published is an incredible validation, a vote of confidence that I can now legitimately refer to myself as ‘a writer’. This small success is already driving me to write more and think more about writing. I have even ‘invested’ some of the fee (again, not huge, but certainly meaningful) in a ticket for the Dublin Worldcon in 2019. By then, the plan is to have stories everywhere and books on shelves. I figure if I aim high and undershoot, I can live with it.

The story itself, The Last Boat-Builder in Ballyvoloon, is broadly about environmental disaster, our innate drive to fix that disaster with technology and the fact that the damage done by such problems (and their solutions) is often predominantly felt by ‘little’ people in little towns.

The spark for it was [SPOILER] reading reports about a robot that hunts and kills the crown-of-thorns starfish, an invasive species that is damaging the Great Barrier Reef.

It is also about that weird part of people that urges them to make pointless gestures in the face of all logic that may do them immeasurable harm and that weird place in me that tends to see such gestures as noble rather than stupid.

The submission process at Clarkesworld is both blisteringly fast and agonisingly slow (from my perspective – it’s still very quick in general terms), in that the story was moved out of the slush readers’ instant rejection list almost immediately, but then spent more than six weeks ‘under review’ by editor Neil Clarke (again, that is pretty fast by SFF market standards, but there is a time dilation effect when the story is yours). However, on the plus side, that delay did mean that I was lucky enough to be home with my family in Ireland when the acceptance and contracts came through. The news was comprehensively celebrated!

The review process was fast and thorough and I was encouraged that little was changed from my original draft. My sub-editing colleagues and friends should know that the American spellings are Clarkesworld’s and not mine. 🙂

I am told there is a Clarkesworld podcast version of the story on the way – narrated by the accomplished Kate Baker. I hope my phone-recorded pronunciation guide will help and will update this post with a link once the audio version of The Last Boat-Builder in Ballyvoloon is published. [UPDATE: the podcast is now live. Listen to it on Clarkesworld here or on YouTube here.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the story, and comment on it on Clarkesworld’s site (and subscribe to Clarkesworld or Patreon them- they’re ace!) and share it on Twitter, Facebook or wherever you like.

Slán

 

From A-lists to World War Z

Mark Evans

Brilliant interview with Max Brooks by Empire magazine here. I haven’t seen World War Z yet because I haven’t read the book yet. Must rectify that before a member of the undead snacks on my cerebellum. Great insights into the writing process, shenanigans with Hollywood, politics with China and steadfastly refusing to do his work any disservice. A tip of the hat to Mr Brooks.
Choice quote…

I went looking for a zombie survival guide. Nobody had written it, they were all off ‘having a life’, and I didn’t have that problem so I thought, ‘You know what? I have two extraordinary gifts: I have an excessive compulsive disorder and unemployment. And I’m going fuse them into a book.’ So I sat down and wrote zombie survival guide.
Max Brooks

PS, Yes, his dad is Mel ‘Blazing Saddles’ Brooks. Which raises the question – was Mongo a bean-eating zombie?

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How they took that 360-gigapixel panoramic shot of London

There’s a nice video piece on the BBC website on how they took that record-breaking panoramic shot from the top of the BT tower. I quite like the bit which says the top of the tower “only” moves 12 inches in 100mph winds.

The company behind the shot, 360Cities.net, has panoramas from around the world on its website including this moody shot of the river running through Cork city.

 

UV been framed: science photographs that are literally out of this world

Awful puns aside, there are two photos this week that absolutely blew me away. The first is from the amazing Curiosity rover, beaming back high-res images from the surface of Mars. This week it took one at night:

Mars under a blacklight – like a 90s nightclub

It may not seem like much, but this is a picture taken in the absence of sunlight on a planet that is at least 34.6 million miles away. The idea is to see if anything fluoresces under ultraviolet light. That the camera is mounted on a nuclear-powered, laser-wielding robot car only adds to my awe at what Nasa and its engineers and contractors come up with.

The second photo is from a camera that spent a mere five minutes outside Earth’s atmosphere, strapped to a rocket.  Five minutes is not enough to take a usable picture of my incessantly blinking extended family, but it was apparently enough for scientists to snap a 165-frame flipbook of ultraviolet radiation that was  detailed enough to solve one of science’s weirder solar conundrums. Watch the video — that is the thing responsible for all life on this planet:

Tougher copyright laws could finish Irish newspapers off

Once upon a time, people paid to have their businesses listed in the Golden Pages. Once upon a time, it was against the law to give somebody information about where to get a perfectly legal abortion in a foreign country. One day, I will have to tell my incredulous children these stories about things made irrelevant by the internet. Yesterday, I was given a third.

Once upon a time, newspapers used to sue people for sending them an audience.

Apparently, “there is a fight under way that will have an enormous bearing on the future of the news industry in Ireland”.

Gather ye round kids, and I will tell you of Y2K, SARS, Blur-vs-Oasis, Pippa Middleton’s bum and many other tales that were blown out of all proportion by Irish newspapers.

At the centre of the supposed row (really just a conference organised by the National Newspapers of Ireland) is a review into Irish copyright law and the doctrine of “fair use”. Leaders in at least two of the Irish newspapers, the Independent and the Examiner, maintain that search engines “steal” their content without paying a penny in return.

The Irish Independent yesterday wrote:

“Website giants are taking journalism at no cost and offering it for free — even though it is costing jobs and livelihoods in the trusted media sector.”

The Irish Examiner wrote:

“The scale of the piracy is astounding. In 2010, while every media company in the country shed jobs and cut costs to the bone, a single search engine operating in Ireland offered around 150,000 newspaper articles that cost publishers an estimated €46.5m to generate. Last year that site offered more than 350,000 articles at a cost equivalent to more than €110m. And all without paying one cent to those who created those articles.”

We know (because it was in The Irish Times) that the “website giant” and “single search engine” mentioned is Google, no stranger to such accusations — Rupert Murdoch once referred to them as a “piracy leader”. But at least he had the courage of his convictions and stopped the search engine from indexing The Times when it went behind a paywall (it has resumed listing since then. I wonder why?).

It is that point more than any other that shows up the ludicrous hypocrisy of newspapers complaining about search engines “stealing” their content.

Newspapers have thrown up the shop shutters, spread out their wares and asked Google to please tell people about them. Or, as the Examiner puts it, a “process … hardly different to what we more commonly describe as theft”.

So why don’t they just ask Google to stop? Every newspaper website contains a file called robots.txt which tells Google what it may or may not index. If the executives at the Indo and Examiner want Google to stop listing everything on their websites, they just have to push a button. Or at least ring the editor, tell him to ring the head of IT, and he will ask Jim, “on the website”, to push the button.

But, of course, they will not. If they shut Google out, their online advertising revenues, already small, will fall. This is not a moral argument, with newspapers telling search engines to do the right thing and pay their way. This is newspapers demanding a renegotiation, saying “please sir may I have some more”.

Irish newspapers are in trouble. Circulations are falling, ad revenues are falling, and digital revenues come nowhere near to making up the difference. And the managements of Irish newspapers do not know what to do.

If you question that, take another look at those numbers:

“Irish industry group the National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI), of which The Irish Times is a member, said Google had offered 150,000 newspaper articles in 2010 that had cost publishers around €46.5 million to produce. Last year, this increased to more than 350,000 articles that cost the industry €110 million to originate.”

At a time when publishing has never been more widespread, easier or cheaper, these guys think lax copyright is the problem, not that each article costs them an average €314 to produce?

Let us completely ignore the fact that newspapers regularly “copy and paste” material from other sources, both public domain and not-so-public domain, and pass it off as their own, original, copyrightable work. Let us not hold our breath when we ask: do they always pay freelance newspaper contributors to reprint their copyrighted work online?

€314 per article? I don’t know what shift rates are like in Ireland these days but I’m guessing they’re less than that and I’m guessing most papers expect more than a story per day.

If this were any other industry, it is journalists who would be asking the sensible questions:

  • Doesn’t Irish copyright law already make selling somebody else’s original work as your own illegal? (Yes, for a given value of original.)
  • Would this be difficult and costly to enforce? (Yes, incredibly so.)
  • Will it stop people reading “free” news online? (Of course not.)
  • Will print publications be subject to the same rules? Digests in The Week and The Economist both carry more text than a Google link. Will they have to pay?

Newspapers are not dying because people online can read their stories without paying them. Newspapers are dying because the property and recruitment booms ended, because classified ads moved online, because they were poorly managed (aimless regional expansion, propping up vanity titles in London, €50 million for myhome.ie, anyone?) and just because technology passed them by for almost 20 years.

You are not going to solve a 21st-century technological problem by strengthening a law introduced to regulate 18th-century printing presses.

The Examiner says “Newspapers do not want or expect special treatment”, but that is not how it looks. Earlier this year, Alan Crosbie, the chairman of Thomas Crosbie Media, which owns the Examiner, essentially pleaded for a portion of the TV licence fee that funds RTÉ.

John Lloyd, a contributing editor to the FT, said the speech was driven by “the passion of desperation”. Given the parlous state of TCH finances reported in The Phoenix last month, it is unlikely that desperation has gone anywhere.

Paywalls are often suggested as a cure for newspapers’ revenue woes. I’ve written here before about why I think they’re not, but the main reason is that there will always be other sources of news. Such as the BBC and, in Ireland, RTÉ. They are not going anywhere as news-gathering organisations, despite the wishful thinking of the NNI, and as long as they’re around, Google will have news content to link to.

Google will not pay you for the privilege of linking to your content. The notion is akin to Borris-in-Ossory demanding payment from anyone who gives directions to a motorist, because it cannot extract enough money from them when they arrive. Google will just stop indexing your websites and traffic will dry up.

It is hard to think of a more misguided, and pointless “row” to be having in the face of the difficulties Irish papers are enduring than over whether copyright is strong enough. In 20 years’ time my kids will be asking what it was.

“Boss, circulation’s down, ad revenues are down, the kids are all reading for free online. What do we do?”

“Somebody get me a Golden Pages. We need a copyright lawyer.”

Newspapers may not admit print is dying, but the guys who make the paper will

The commercial director of London’s Evening Standard, Jon O’Donnell, was widely quoted this week when he said that newspapers, especially his own, had a healthy future:

 “The printed version has a healthy life ahead of it. The digital world is immense. But people still like the tangible asset of a newspaper. They like to tear them and dispose of them.”

Now, it would be a little odd if a commercial director for three newspapers – he also oversees the Independent and i – ran around saying “print is doomed”, but basing his optimism, at least in part, on people’s love of papier mache and recycling seemed a bit odd.

Those who run paper mills or provide them with equipment don’t seem quite so sanguine about the future.

Voith, a German company that makes paper mill machinery, announced this week that it will cut 710 jobs because demand for graphic paper (used for magazines or newspapers) has fallen. Voith says tablets are to blame:

“… the ongoing digitalization of everyday life through tablets like the iPad and the ensuing changes in consumer behavior is faster than expected having a negative impact on the demand for so-called graphic papers”

This message was backed up by RISI, an information service for the forest products industry, which said yesterday that world newsprint production would contract by 5.5 million tonnes over the next five years as newspaper demand shrank “due largely to media tablets and mobile devices”.

But possibly the most grimly amusing assessment of newspapers’ future came in a comment on Roy Greenslade’s blog:

“It [newsprint] definitely has more usage than you think. Here at Vernacare we buy all the available newsprint that is either recycled by the consumer or the newspaper that had not been sold by the retailer”

And what does this booming market for old newsprint produce? Disposable bedpans and urinal bottles.

Seems a step down from tomorrow’s fishwrap.

Can someone at the Irish Independent get Ian O’Doherty a history book?

The Irish Independent has clearly spotted a gap in the market – incitement to racist violence. As the Irish Daily Mail doesn’t carry the execrable Richard Littlejohn column so beloved of English bigots, the Indo has decided to use his non-union Mexican equivalent, Ian O’Doherty, to offer Irish readers some old-fashioned race hate.

The irony of opening his latest link-bait “column” with one TD’s ridiculous comparison of laws against turf-cutting to the crimes of the Third Reich and then writing that “Romanian gypsies have been descending on the city [London] in advance of the games so they can engage in their traditional cultural practice — thieving and begging” seems lost on O’Doherty. On the first, he “squares things up” by pointing out the idiocy of comparing: “Six million dead in the Holocaust, a total of 50 million deaths in the war in total and the complete destruction of Europe and . . . a bunch of pissed-off culchies who can no longer cut their own turf”.

While Ming Flanagan’s outburst was ludicrous, the Holocaust refers only to the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. Maybe O’Doherty missed the lesson on the gassing of homosexuals, Marxists, Christians and … gypsies.

In his ignorance, Little Littlejohn has an original and creative suggestion to deal with this menace (that he read about in the always reliable Daily Express last Tuesday):

“… send in the cops, round them all up, crack a few heads and put them on the next plane back to Bucharest”.

Hooray. Night sticks and forced repatriation. Because nobody has tried that before. But then, O’Doherty has form:

“… when you have a dispossessed, disenfranchised working class which, rightly or wrongly, feels that more consideration is given to immigrants and religious fanatics than to the indigenous population, then sooner or later things are going to get ugly.

And when you have a political class which states that anyone who has concerns about the Islamicisation of Europe is a racist, eventually people are going to say … OK, call me racist.”

OK. you’re a racist. And you’re not funny.

Everybody complains about Twitter, but nobody does anything about it

Apologies to Mark Twain* for bowdlerising his quote, but it has happened again – somebody has made something up on the internet, without a thought for fact-checking or journalistic integrity. What’s worse is they then used the unregulated media of Twitter and Facebook to spread these lies. Worse still, this latest fabrication sullies the name of that fair and balanced journalistic institution, Fox News. Laugh? I nearly tweeted.

Padraig Belton, in the Irish Independent, told us yesterday that the world is not always as it seems. To support this skeptical world-view, he cites the infamous “Brian Cowen hangover” interview and this picture that did the rounds last week:

Photoshopped screengrab of Fox News Toolooz
Fox News. It's bad, but not this bad

Belton says:

In both cases, social media and citizen-journalism – not long prior heralded engines of a new democratic dispensation – were manipulated in political hatchet jobs.

Political hatchet jobs? I can see how the Cowen interview may have been politically motivated, but what’s the political motivation for “Fox News is rubbish”? Even if you could answer that, who cares? It’s not meant to be journalism. It’s meant to be a joke.

To illustrate the dangers of photo manipulation, he could have used North Korea’s nine-foot soldier, or Iran’s cloning-tool wars.  But he wanted to illustrate the threat of Twitter, so chose a joke.

That joke took a report of a multiple murder and tried to get a laugh at the expense of a cable channel renowned for screaming hyperbole and screw-ups. For example, the original, undoctored image was taken from a Fox News broadcast in which they mistakenly used a picture of Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live to illustrate an item on Sarah Palin. Here’s the video (if you can trust it):

Belton then trots out a litany of other supposed deceptions, some of them nothing to do with Twitter or Facebook – such as the Sunday Times using an illustration of John ‘Soap’ MacTavish, a character from the Call of Duty game, in a graphic of a failed hostage raid – and some of them actually unearthed by social media themselves, such as ITV’s mistaken use of video game footage in a documentary about IRA links to Gaddafi:

Jokes aren’t journalism

It is Belton’s mixing and mashing of media and platforms – very 21st century for such an avowedly traditional journalist – as he takes in broadcasters, papers, Twitter, Facebook , Wikipedia, and Youtube, that makes his point so hard to pin down.

The Fox News image is a joke. The Guardian’s Cowen tape and ITV’s IRA documentary were inadvertent foul-ups. The 50-cent commenters of China and Wikipedia editors of Capitol Hill are engaged in politics less filthy than the past (remember ‘ratfucking‘?). The  RTE-bashing over the Sean Gallagher debate continues the Indo’s delusion that a false tweet lost him the presidential election rather than his floundering inability to decisively rebut its fabricated content on the night.

So what is Belton’s point? If it were simply “do not believe everything you read online”, well, duh. However, he concludes:

Quality journalism, employing social media like Dorian’s portrait to preserve the likeness of vitality, is too quick to abandon its fact-checking traditions.

That sounds depressingly like a newspaperman putting his own trade on a pedestal of probity (despite every print journalist you ever met knowing someone who has massaged a quote, fudged a statistic, or concealed one of their screw-ups). Belton is in good company – John Fleming had a go at Twitter a couple of weeks ago on Hugh Linehan’s Irish Times blog, John Waters has borne the internet curmudgeon’s cross for the Irish Daily Mail (they don’t put his columns online, funnily enough), and Eamon Delaney maintains, terrifyingly, that we should regulate what has become a “cacophony of noise, but at the lowest common denominator”. Conor Brady and Alan Crosbie have both supported calls for State support of the press, which would just bring regulation by another route.

Time for some whataboutery

Donald Segretti faked a letter to discredit one of Nixon’s political rivals. Newspapers followed it up, yet nobody denounced the postal service as a network used by liars. The Sunday Times agreed to print the “grotesquely … fake” Hitler diaries, yet the writing and serialisation of memoirs remains inexplicably legal. If a newsroom takes an anonymous call that contains libellous information, we do not blame the telephone network. If a lobby journalist misinterprets a hand-written note from one minister to another, we do not call for the regulation of paper and pencil.

If a journalist prints or broadcasts material from social media networks, or wikipedia, or a message board, or email, and never bothers to check whether it is true, it is not a failure of the internet, it is a failure by the journalist.  

Flesh-and-blood sources feed bullshit and PR bumf to journalists in person and on paper every day, but they have developed tools for sniffing it out. Newspapers should be extending the use of these tools online and developing new ones when they fail, rather than indulging in this incessant hand-wringing over media their correspondents barely understand and rarely use. Complaining about the climate isn’t going to change it.

“A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar”

– this one is really by Mark Twain. *The one in the headline is by his friend, Charles Dudley Warner. I knew that, but wrote it anyway.